Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
There are times when we need to take stock of our lives. Perhaps we’re facing a job transition, or a challenging relationship. Perhaps we’ve done something that has brought negative consequences. Perhaps we’ve attended a memorial service and begun thinking about the measure of our own lives. In these and so many other contexts, we stop to reflect on our lives, to pay attention to how we’re living.
Ephesians 4:31 invites us to take stock of our lives in this way. This verse lists five specific attitudes or behaviors that we should put away, concluding with a blanket statement about getting rid of “every form of malice.” Even the relatively short list of wrongs in verse 31 can help us see ourselves more clearly so that we might live more fully as new people in Christ.
My suggestion is that you take the list of wrongs in Ephesians 4:31 and use it as a magnifying glass to examine your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you things you need to see. If you recognize one of these shortcomings in yourself, take time to confess it to the Lord and to seek forgiveness. Then, ask the Lord if there is anything you need to do differently or any amends you need to make.
Questions for taking stock of your life:
Bitterness: Are you holding on to bitterness? Have you allowed wrongs done to you to remain in your heart, leaving the sour taste of unforgiveness?
Rage and anger: Are you prone to excessive anger? Do you express your anger in ways that hurt others or even yourself? Does your anger keep you from having healthy relationships with colleagues, your boss, neighbors, or family members?
Brawling and slander: Do you use words to hurt others, both in their presence and behind their backs? Do you tend to say things at work that put down your coworkers? Do you say things that later on you wish you could retract?
Every form of malice: Are there other actions or attitudes in your life that cause pain and division in your relationships?
Something to Do:
As you recognize behaviors in your life that are not so good, confess them to the Lord and ask for forgiveness.
Gracious God, thank you for making me new in Christ. Thank you for the call and opportunity to put off my old self and put on my new self. Lord, I know there are pieces of my old self still hanging around me. Some of these show up on the list in Ephesians 4:31. So as I take stock of my life I offer these moral failures to you, asking you not only to forgive me, but also to help me take off these parts of my old self so I can put on my new self more completely. Amen.